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Samael Envelops London In Darkness

What can be said about Samael at this point? The Swiss quartet are one of the most influential bands in black metal, with Darkthrone drummer Fenriz citing their debut, "Worship Him" as "essential" and have continued to evolve their sound over a career spanning three decades. From their third album, "Ceremony Of Opposites," the group began adding electronic and industrial elements to their repertoire and now boast a unique style which no one has been able to match. At their recent show in London, I had the pleasure of not just interviewing frontman Vorph (which can be seen here) but also witnessing their one of a kind live show.

Unfortunately, I was unable to catch opening band, Hangman's Chair, but arrived in the nick of time to see the Swiss stalwarts kick off. Having previously seen Samael at 70000 Tons Of Metal last year, it was interesting to see them in their own environment (and in a more sturdy setting.) With Vorph at the helm, the band charged into battle with the title track from their latest album, "Hegemony," a record which was well represented on the night, as songs like "Black Supremacy" and "Angel Of Wrath" were also brought out to crush the audience.

There was a good mix of material on display however, going back to the aforementioned "Ceremony Of Opposites" album with songs such as "Baphomet's Throne" and "Son Of Earth," as well as the title track representing their third outing. "Solar Soul" and "Passage" were also well advertised, with three songs each boldly showing how strong these records are, including the classic, "Rain" and "Slavocracy." All of this material, fierce as it is, was empowered all the more by the band's natural charisma and image, which when combined makes for one of the most interesting live bands in the world today. Samael's reign is not over, nor it seems, will it ever be.

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Graspop Metal Meeting: Intro Night

There must be a hundred festivals in Europe by now. Every year a new one pops up, some grow, some wane, but a few sit rightfully in the hall of kings. This year, I made my sixth visit to one from the last category, travelling to the small town of Dessel in the east of Belgium, not far from the Dutch border, to once again experience the one and only Graspop Metal Meeting.

Graspop, as the name suggests, originally began as a more commercial affair, once being headlined by the likes of Simple Minds. In 1996 however, the organisers decided, having witnessed the popularity of the metal bands they'd booked previously, to steer the event entirely towards catering for metal, hardcore and punk fans and brought in the likes of Iron Maiden, Sick Of It All, Type O Negative and Slayer to kick off the inaugural brawl. Fast forward to 2019 and Graspop has become one of Europe's favourite festivals, with many bands also speaking highly of it. It boasts a consistently amazing lineup, serves as a cultural melting pot where people come from all over the globe to celebrate metal and offers fans an unforgettable weekend for a reasonable price. So was this year's event? Well...

Most festivals are advertised as three day affairs, normally the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but at Graspop, the party gets going on Thursday, as each year, many local bands as well as a few international names descend upon the half opened grounds to welcome those who have made the journey to Dessel. Almost as soon I had set up my tent, it was off to the Marquee to see one of my absolute favourite old school heavy metal bands, Raven.

Raven has for decades, worked tirelessly on their live performances and become one of the most revered performers among their peers. The Geordie trio rolled into Belgium on the Thursday and rightly received a very strong response from the crowd, who ate up such staples as "Faster Than The Speed Of Light" and "All For One." Despite forming forty five years ago, Raven still have an energy and playfulness about them that many younger bands lack. Raven is as fun as heavy metal gets, providing sing along anthems, dry humour and plenty of crowd participation. On a personal note, the band finishing the set with my favourite of theirs, "Don't Need Your Money," made sure that this was indeed the best start to a festival this reporter could have had. More...

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Jag Panzer And Amulet Rocks London

In the modern era of metal music, we often focus, rightly or wrongly, on the extreme ends of the genre. Whether it be the sweeping and intricate melodies of progressive and symphonic metal to the crushing brutality of death metal, it's all too easy to forget where the music we love so much comes from and the old school pioneers which helped make metal what it is. On this night in London however, the old guard and the younger trustees gathered at The Underworld to witness the very first British performance from American power metal heroes, Jag Panzer.

The stacked lineup began with performances from Heavy Sentence and Aggressive Perfector, two bands following the traditional path of heavy metal, both in sound and style. Fans of the old classic metal style would do well to check them out, but the real stars when it comes to opening bands was London's own, Amulet. Celebrating the release of their sophomore album, "The Inevitable War," the quintet provide a real treat for the denim and leather clad fans of such bands as Judas Priest, Saxon and Angel Witch. Though, as mentioned, firmly entrenched in the old style, Amulet have a freshness and energy about them which makes them stand out from some of the other bands of their ilk such as Cauldron and White Wizzard. Don't miss them!

Finally, it was the turn of tonight's headliners Jag Panzer to take to the stage. While The Underworld may not have been full tonight, they nonetheless received a very warm welcome from the British capital as thirty eight years after forming, they were finally playing in the UK. It was a wonderfully diverse setlist tonight, with many albums being represented by one song, such as "King At A Price" from "Thane To The Throne" and "The Scarlet Letter" from "Mechanized Warfare" for example.

Much of the focus was on their debut album, "Ample Destruction," from which the band no less than four songs, including the closing number, "Generally Hostile," as well as their latest album, "The Deviant Chord." It was clear that the band were as happy to finally be in Britain as the fans were to finally receive them, which fed into an energy the two parties traded off all night. Jag Panzer may not be the most famous name in heavy metal, or even power metal, but they're an important one, even if they do get unfairly overlooked at times. All in all, this was a wonderful night of old school heavy metal and here's hoping that it won't be another thirty eight years before Jag Panzer play the UK!

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Nova Rock 2019: Behemoth – Lamb Of God – Trivium

Nova Rock, Austria's largest and longest-running rock and metal summer festival of its kind celebrated its 15th Anniversary this year. Reason enough for Metalunderground.com writer and photographer Georg Wilfinger to visit the event and shoot some pictures, taking place June 13th through June 16th, 2019.

Below you can see George's personal extensive photo-recap of the event, scenery, and shows of his favourite bands taking place on the Pannonia Fields near Nickelsdorf:

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Brujeria Carves Up London

Much has been made of Brujeria over the years. Do they really believe their lyrics? Are they really Satanists? Are they really Mexican? The answers to all of these are irrelevant when you consider the main one; Are they any good? The answer is a resounding yes, especially in the live environment, where their cartel inspired brand of deathgrind gets shoved right in the ears of all in attendance, whether they wanted it or not. With ear sodomy in mind then, the band recently embarked on a headlining tour of Europe to promote their latest single, "Amaricon Czar," joined by friends Venomous Concept, Canadian thrash metal stalwarts Aggression and Californian veterans Sangre.

Opening the evening's proceedings was Pomona's own, Sangre. Having released their first album, "Carrion" in 2001, with a sophomore full length arriving ten years later, maybe the band are now gearing up to release a third in two years. The music itself is very heavy and very abrasive, something of a drooling rottweiler snapping at the faces of those polite enough to attend early enough to catch them. Their sound isn't for everyone and it's not in the running for any prizes for originality, but for those of you who like their metal a little groovy and supremely vicious, Sangre are well worth checking out. More...

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Decibel Magazine Metal and Beer Fest is Brewsome!

Decibel Magazine's Metal and Beer Fest is just fucking genius. Whomever came up with this brilliant idea should receive a huge bonus and/or promotion every year that it continues to happen. I attended last December’s edition in Los Angeles and I lost my Metal and Beer virginity there…and to liken the feeling to Nikki Sixx and his penchant for chasing the dragon…I needed more.

I recently returned from Philadelphia’s version and really had a chance to drink it all in this time. In addition to combining two things that are a match made in hell for each other (Heavy Metal and craft beer), the festival organizers have the marquee bands play exclusive setlists for this festival. For example, in Los Angeles, Testament played their incredible sophomore release, “The New Order” and Triptykon played an all Celtic Frost set. During the recent Philadelphia edition, Enslaved played their Viking Metal masterpiece, “Frost” and Obituary played their magnum opus, “Cause of Death.” These exclusive setlists are what really make this festival stand out among most current metal fests.

Another great attribute about this festival is the sheer amount, and affordability of merchandise available. I don’t remember seeing any T-shirts costing over $20. In addition, not only can you stuff your record bags with merch from the bands, the breweries in attendance slinging suds had plenty schwag on hand too. They also had tons of free stuff they were giving away such as coasters, koozies, stickers, pens, etc.… And if you weren’t sick of reading about all the merch you missed out on yet, Author/Bazillion Points owner and Heavy Metal Disk Jockey, Ian Christie, was commanding a table with a large collection of his books for sale.


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Godsmack Makes Legends And London Rise

For over twenty years, Massachusetts rockers Godsmack has been putting out acclaimed and relatable music, appealing to fans of rock, metal and even mainstream listeners. Last year, the band celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their eponymous debut album, by releasing a new studio album, "When Legends Rise." The record has seen a slight shift in sound but has done well commercially. But how do the new songs sound live? Let's find out!

Supporting Godsmack on this European trek was New Zealand rock/metal band Like A Storm. Having seen them twice before at Graspop, I know that these boys can throw down as hard as anyone. Their selling point that separates them from other young bands is their use of the didgeridoo (an instrument native to New Zealand and Australia.) The unique take on hard rock makes them the perfect choice to support Godsmack, as they're not too far from the headlining bands sound but far enough to offer the crowd something different. A storming performance from the Kiwis surely made them more than a few new fans tonight and hopefully it won't be too long until they return to Britain. More...

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70.000 Tons of Metal: Day 4

Hailing from Pereira, Colombia death metal band Internal Suffering (who have since relocated to madrid, Spain) open the last day of metal mayhem for me on the last day of the cruise. The group deliver a solid live performance on the Studio B - Ice Rink stage. See for some pics below:

After lunch I had the pleasure to witness six-piece progressive melodic death dealers from Melbourne, Australia Ne Obliviscaris (also Studio B - Ice Rink) convince the crowd. The unconventional metal band had their fans soon spell-bound by the flawless live-performance of their two charismatic frontmen vocalist Xenoyr, violinist / clean vocalist Tim Charles and all other band members: More...

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70.000 Tons of Metal: Day 3

Alright after 2 days of metal madness on board of the 70.000 Tons Of Metal cruise ship I guess everyone needed this: A relaxing day out on the beach. Early birds like me could even witness our arrival at Labadee, Haiti from the Windjammers buffet windows' awesome view, while having another delicious breakfast.

Labadee itself offered almost everything you would need for a fun-day out on the beach: Snorkelling tours, the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line (the world’s longest zip line over water), the 300 foot long Dragon’s Splash Waterslide, a kayaking tour, and many things more. Also a highlight - at least for most male metalheads: The 70K Tons Of Metal pool girls calendar photoshoot.

Refreshed and sun-burnt everyone slowly comes back to life back on board again and prepares for the night ahead:

Paradise Lost's second set on the boat, relied more on Draconian Times/Icon era material, opening with “Embers Fire”. Belting out “Hallowed Land”, “One Second”, “Faith Divides Us”, “Shadowkings”, ”Gothic”, “Pity The Sadness” the band really took no prisoners. Ultimately ending their set with “The Last Time” and leaving a more than happy fan-crowd.

Next up for me were teutonic thrash metal veterans Sodom, who reunited with guitarist Frank Blackfire fired off an almost entirely old school set: More...

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70.000 Tons of Metal: Day 2

While most of the fans were sleeping – well let's say some of them - the "The Independence Of The Seas" metal-battleship ship had to make a 90 degrees course change, an evasive maneuver to calmer seas, in order to avoid sailing into a storm. The 37 knot (42 mph) wind also prevented the organization from erecting the decorative side-fills, left and right of the stage. Also the lighting rig was put at half mast, so that the stiff winds won't tear it down. At least the Pool stage was ready on time for Raven and all the other bands that would hit the Pool-Deck-Stage on Day 2.

To catch my favourite American thrash metal band from Newbury Park, CA Warbringer I had to get up somewhat early in the morning - meaning before 9 a.m. - to have enough time for a tasty breakfast at the Windjammers buffet. The buffet offered everything you could think of from hash-browns, scrambled/fried eggs, ham, cheese, cereals of all kinds, toast, vegetables, fruits, juice, regular coffee, decaffeinated coffee, tea etc. etc. Even soy-milk could be served for my vegan significant other.

Warbringer kick-started the day at the Royal Theater at 10:45 am:

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70.000 Tons of Metal: Day 1

After sitting out the 2018 edition Metalunderground.com writer and photographer Georg Wilfinger boarded The World’s Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise, 70.000 Tons of Metal again, taking place January 31st through February 4, 2019.

The largest and longest-running sea travel of its kind this year headed again from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Labadee, Haiti and back, featuring 60 bands playing 123 live shows on 4 stages to fans from over 74 different countries. For most fans on board it’s "the" annual metal highlight. Below you can see George's personal extensive photo-recap of the events, scenery, and shows of his favourite bands taking place on "The Independence Of The Seas" metal-battleship:

Day 1: Dark Funeral – Fleshgod Apocalypse – Soulfly – Bloodbath

Due to weather delays on the Northern American side -  the snow and cold cancelling almost every flight – some bands and co-sponsors of the event arrived late at Port Everglades. So the boat was almost two hours late, when leaving the dock and the first bands were already performing their shows. Having cruised the 70K before, I could notice some nice improvements onboard, lots of new eateries and bars, even in the indoor venues.

Swedish black metal band from Stockholm Dark Funeral were afforded the Royal Theater, the biggest of the three indoor venues, performing their one hour set:

Dark Funeral Setlist: More...

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Grave Digger Raises The Dead In London

With all the many sub genres and styles in metal today, sometimes the old guard gets shuffled away or forgotten about. Those still paying attention however will discover many groups still performing the classic heavy metal sound, both old and new. Tonight was a mixture of both, as German metal stalwarts Grave Digger came to the Tufnell Park Dome, bringing with them Swiss up and comers Burning Witches.

The Dome is a fine little venue, with a stage big enough to accommodate some props and smoke, which definitely helps at a show like this. It may be a little uncommon, but the venue began filling up quite early, due to the buzz and excitement of seeing Burning Witches perform in the United Kingdom for the first time. The hype was something well worth believing in, as the five women from Brugg put on one hell of a show. Lead singer Seraina Telli has been referred to several times as "the female Rob Halford" and she's very deserving of this comparison, boasting a voice which soars like an eagle and pierces like a bullet. More...

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SOIA And Napalm Death Demonstrate Persistence

In an age where Summer festivals dominate, it's nice to have something to look forward to in the Winter as well. While many fans of hardcore will find their most renowned names playing big metal festivals, the Persistence Tour has, since 2005, offered European fans of the genre a great night out in the form of a massive, travelling matinee. This year saw New York hardcore legends Sick Of It All headline the trek once again, having previously taken part in the event four times, being joined by crossover thrash favourites Municipal Waste, Detroit metalcore outfit Walls Of Jericho and for one night only, grindcore godfathers, Napalm Death.

Having been unable to catch the opening two bands (Siberian Meat Grinder and Take Offence,) due to interviews with Napalm Death and Municipal Waste (watch this space,) my first live act for the day was Oi! outfit Booze & Glory. What makes this band very very special is what they stand for. Booze & Glory were formed by two Polish immigrants and over the years their ranks have included people from other countries such as Greece and Sweden, while the English members are themselves descended from immigrants. This background, combined with their love of traditional skinhead and British culture is one of the best slaps to the face of racism and xenophobia, showing the world that we can embrace each other while remaining true to our heritage and cultures. As for the music itself, it was a lot of fun. Booze & Glory offer a good time, in a similar vein to Dropkick Murphys, plenty of sing along anthems and a fierce stage presence. Frankly their studio output doesn't do them justice and I urge all fans of punk, hardcore, Oi! and the skinhead subculture to seek out a live show soon. Superb! More...

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Powerwolf Makes Bristol Howl

While tour packages can often cater to fans of a specific sound, it can be said that the best lineups are ones which offer something for everyone. Last week, German power metal quintet Powerwolf rolled into the south west of England to perform at the SWX club, bringing countrymen Kissin' Dynamite and Scandinavian band Amaranthe with them. The tour promised a lot but did it deliver? Read on MacDuff...

Kicking off proceedings tonight was German glam metal outfit Kissin' Dynamite. The band are all in their twenties but have already released six albums and been around for over a decade and it's little surprise that they've been going so long while they're so young, because they put on one hell of a show. They make it known that their mission is to "bring back stadium rock" while at the SWX club may not be Madison Square Garden, the quintet create a huge atmosphere, which begun immediately with the awesome opener, "I've Got The Fire." Kissin' Dynamite has a really powerful sound which seems like it'll work in any setting, pounding skulls with such songs as "Sex Is War" and "I Will Be King," the latter of which was accompanied by frontman Hannes Braun going full Freddie Mercury and taking to the stage in crown and cape. A fantastic reminder of just how fun heavy metal can be, Kissin' Dynamite will only get bigger. More...

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Clutch Rocks The Earth In Bristol

As time goes by, Maryland rockers Clutch has developed more and more of a legendary status. While each album solidifies that claim, it's the live setting where the band really shines, making even festival slots feel small and comfortable. Last December, the band embarked on a headlining run of the United Kingdom, with many shows being sold out and where their latest album, "Book Of Bad Decisions" has received widespread praise by journalists. Having only seen the band at the Graspop Metal Meeting festival, I traveled to Bristol to check out the quartet in a smaller setting. Here's what happened...

Opening the show tonight was our first duo, from Mont-de-Marsan, in the south west of France, The Inspector Cluzo. It should be noted that besides Clutch, neither support band can really be classed as metal and even Inspector Cluzo's Facebook description classifies them as "soul/fuck and roll," which I'm not too sure I agree with quite frankly. In any case, those who arrived early for the show were treated to a fantastic display of musical madness. The hard rocking cabaret was wildly entertaining and songs from their new album, "We The People Of The Soil" sound absolutely fantastic. The two are funny, entertaining and very talented. If you want something a bit different, I highly recommend seeking The Inspector Cluzo out and catching a live set. You won't be disappointed. More...

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Solstafir Transports Bristol To The North

The incredible thing about metal music is how far it reaches. The equally incredible thing about metal musicians is just what they can do with it. In today's case, we're looking at the talent of Solstafir, a quartet from the far northern country of Iceland, whose passion filled, progressive take on metal music has garnered them a strong reputation over the years. At the end of last year, the four Nordic musicians came over to the United Kingdom and Ireland for a string of shows (surprisingly omitting London) and I popped along to the show in Bristol to experience the group for myself.

Quite honestly, I don't like giving bad reviews, since art is subjective and what doesn't work for me may be a revelation to someone else. I will say that the support from Talons and Telepathy did absolutely nothing for me. One instrumental act is an interesting addition to the lineup but two is frankly a bit much, especially when the headlining band does have a vocalist. If you're a skilled musician, you might enjoy taking in the music and seeing what these bands can do, but otherwise, it's like being a punk fan at a jazz concert; mind numbingly bored and agitated by the unfamiliar sound. More...

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Kreator Heralds The European Apocalypse

I've mentioned before that 2018 had some of the most exciting tour packages in recent years. It can be argued that the most exciting of these was the Headbanger's Ball tour (see report on the London show here,) but for those who want more variety in a lineup, the European Apocalypse had you covered. What more could a metal fan ask for than to spend the evening with thrash metal gods Kreator, black metal outfit Dimmu Borgir, American hardcore stars Hatebreed and Swedish death metal supergroup Bloodbath? It was one Hell of a way to cap off the year and when the tour rolled into London, I was there to catch it in all of its glory.

Kicking things off in suitably dark fashion was Bloodbath. It was interesting comparing their opening slot inside the Roundhouse to the well received performance on the main stage of Bloodstock Open Air four months earlier. Frontman Nick Holmes proves once again that he's a natural fit for the band, delivering powerful screams interspersed with dry humour throughout and casting a tortured shadow over the stage. Material from their new album, "The Arrow Of Satan" is drawn sounds fantastic live and fits in perfectly with older songs such as "So You Die" and "Outnumbering The Day," before the quintet closed their set with a rendition of "Eaten." Great performance and an adrenaline raising way to get the night going. More...

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Lawnmower Deth Host The Greatest Christmas Party

Since their return to the stage in 2009, Lawnmower Deth has established a reputation among a younger generation of British headbangers as one of the most fun live acts going. Having made no less than six appearances at the famous Download festival, Lawnmower Deth has become one of the most beloved names in retro British thrash once more, perhaps only eclipsed by Onslaught. The group has also become known for hosting annual Christmas shows and last year saw them put on a real treat for old school fans as they were joined by fellow thrash veterans Xentrix and Solitary.

Kicking things off was Lancashire lads Solitary. Formed in 1994 and releasing their first full length, "Nothing Changes" four years later, the band were greeted by a modest sized audience when they took to the stage. Frankly, the sound wasn't the best during their performance, at least from where I was standing and it lessened the impact they could have had. The audience seemed pleased enough with Solitary, but didn't give them much of a response, making things seem a little awkward at times. They weren't bad at all, but the somewhat quiet audience seemed to rub the group the wrong way and they looked as if they were glad to finish. More...

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Exodus Holds The Headbanger's Ball In London

December has been one Hell of a month for tours. Great Britain has been treated to a wide array of bands visiting this month, while there's also been some real treats when it comes to tour packages. Perhaps there was no tour with more to offer, especially to fans of thrash metal, than the Headbanger's Ball tour, which made its only British stop in London a few weeks ago. Denim vests, high top running shoes and band patches at the ready, it's a night of old school thrash.

Opening the show, all the way from Athens (Greece, not Ohio,) was Suicidal Angels. Many will remember about ten years ago, there was the thrash revival, which saw a number of young bands bring back the thrash of the eighties, many going full retro and singing songs about Robocop. While many of these groups simply rehashed the style, there were some who brought a freshness to the genre, either by putting a modern spin on things or adding some new elements. Suicidal Angels were one of the few that fall into the latter category and proved on this night that they're still going strong not just because the music's good, but because they're a real force live. Obviously, they had the shortest set time on the bill, but fans who arrived early were treated to a quality display of thrash metal, which instead of being a nostalgia act, was an energetic outburst of metal. Opa! More...

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Skeletonwitch Casts A Spell Under The Dome

It's been something of tumultuous tour for Skeletonwitch and friends this past few weeks. Being joined on the road by German duo Mantar and their compatriots Deathrite, as well as Belgian thrashers Evil Invaders, the tour has hit a few snags including visa issues at the Norwegian border and Mantar vocalist Hanno Klänhardt coming down with a serious illness, forcing the two piece to pull out of the British shows (though I was able to film an interview with drummer Erinç Sakarya, which you can watch here.) Evil Invaders were also unable to join the other bands in the UK, disappointing some fans. However, Skeletonwitch aren't a band to let the odds defeat them and there was no way they were going to let down their fans in the English capital.

Opening the show was Deathrite, from the German city of Dresden. Combining a string of styles including grindcore, thrash and death metal, Deathrite come across as a much faster Obituary, which is no bad thing. Promoting their fourth full length album, "Nightmares Reign," which was released this year through Century Media Records, quintet put on a crushing display of Teutonic heaviness from start to finish. Those in attendance were very receptive to them too and seemed to really enjoy their set, with a few chants of "one more song" being heard at the end. All in all, Deathrite are well worth checking out, either live or on record. More...

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